The Hockey Company
The Hockey Company
3500 Boulevard Maisonneuve West
Westmount, Quebec H3Z 3C1
Telephone: (514) 932-1118
Fax: (514) 932-6043
Incorporated: 1991 as SLM International Inc.
Sales: US$190.6 million (1999)
Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ
Ticker Symbol: THCX
NAIC: 339920 Sporting and Athletic Goods Manufacturing; 421910 Sporting and Recreational Goods and Supplies Wholesalers; 315223 Men’s and Boys’ Cut and Sew Shirt (Except Work Shirt) Manufacturing (pt); 315299 All Other Cut and Sew Apparel Manufacturing (pt); 316219 Other Footwear Manufacturing
The Hockey Company is the world’s largest manufacturer of hockey equipment, producing and distributing hockey products such as hockey skates, sticks, uniforms and apparel, and protective gear. The company also makes inline skates and holds licensing agreements to make and market apparel and other products with the National Hockey League (NHL) logo. In addition to its flagship brand CCM, The Hockey Company sells merchandise under the brand names Canadien, Heaton, Jofa, Koho, and Titan. The Hockey Company was formerly known as SLM International Inc. and emerged from Chapter 11 in 1997.
Falling into Hockey: Mid-1970s
What eventually became The Hockey Company began as somewhat of a chance occurrence. The Zunenshine family was well known in Montreal for its commercial real estate business Belcourt Inc., which it began in the 1950s. In 1976 an interest in diversification and a tax-loss credit prompted chairman David Zunenshine to purchase GC Knitting, a manufacturer of polyester hockey jerseys. Though Zunenshine had no intention of expanding into sporting goods, GC Knitting was performing strongly, and thus Zunenshine decided to keep the business and make a go of it.
The Zunenshine family moved more decisively into the hockey realm in 1983 with the purchase of the hockey assets of CCM Inc., which had been making ice hockey skates since 1905. CCM commanded strong brand awareness, but the company fell into bankruptcy in the early 1980s. With the CCM purchase the Zunenshines also acquired the Tacks brand of skates. Also in the early 1980s the Zunenshines bought Sandow Sports Knit, which provided them with the license to make and market NHL jerseys, and in 1985 the Zunenshines purchased St. Lawrence Manufacturing Canada Inc., the primary supplier of ice skate blades for CCM. St. Lawrence, like CCM, faced financial troubles.
Using the initials of St. Lawrence, the Zunenshines called their company SLM Canada and worked to revitalize the ailing companies, financing their efforts with real estate resources. The purchase of St. Lawrence gave the Zunenshine family additional manufacturing capabilities and more plastic injection molding capacity than the company required. To take advantage of the resources, the Zunenshines bought equipment specifically designed to manufacture toboggans and plastic sleds and imported the gear from Scandinavia.
Foray into Toys Sparks Growth in the Late 1980s and Early 1990s
One problem SLM faced was that its business was largely seasonal, with most of the company’s products geared toward winter sports and activities. As a result, the company’s factories were relatively unproductive during the summer months. To tackle the dilemma, the Zunenshines acquired Coleco Industries, a toy manufacturer, in 1988 when Coleco went bankrupt. Coleco was known for producing Cabbage Patch dolls but also made swimming pools and other plastic goods for children. The Zunenshines hoped the purchase would round out SLM and boost productivity throughout the year.
The Zunenshines expanded further into the toy market in 1990 when they acquired another financially troubled company—Buddy L Corp., a 70-year-old manufacturer of steel and plastic toy cars and trucks based in the United States. The method of growth through the acquisition of bankrupt companies caught up with the Zunenshines, however, and the family found itself struggling to keep SLM afloat. To help manage the financially beleaguered network of companies, the Zunenshines hired Earl Takefman to head SLM’s toy division in 1990. Takefman was a Montreal entrepreneur who had recently resigned his post as president of Charan Industries Inc., a toy, gift, and sporting goods company that had gone from success to disaster. Takefman, who was named co-CEO with Howard Zunenshine, founder David Zunenshine’s son, vowed not to repeat past mistakes and set about turning SLM around.
The year 1990 was not a good one financially for SLM. The toy division, still in the midst of reorganization, posted an operating loss of US$2.2 million, and the company overall reported a net loss of US$3.2 million. The toy segment quickly began to improve sales, however, when the company obtained the licensing rights to reproduce such popular characters as the Little Mermaid, Big Bird, and Cookie Monster on toy swimming pools. The industrywide rise in toy sales in 1991 also helped SLM, and the company reported net income of US$6.3 million for fiscal 1991.
Motivated by the rapid turnaround, SLM sought additional avenues for growth, and in November 1991 the company went public, adopted the new name SLM International Inc., and set up headquarters in New York. By February 1992 the company’s stock had increased 71 percent, and SLM was one of the fastest-growing toy companies in the United States. Industry analysts gave SLM glowing reviews and projected strong growth. Takefman believed the toy division was the key to SLM’s success and anticipated further growth and expansion, particularly in overseas markets.
By the early 1990s the hockey division, despite steady performance, was no longer the mainstay of SLM; in fact, hockey equipment accounted for less than 25 percent of sales in 1991. Expansion continued to drive the company, and in 1992 SLM purchased Kevin Sports Toys International Inc., the maker of the Wayne Gretzky NHL hockey game; Norca Industries Inc., a plastic toy manufacturer of such products as swimming pools, sleds, and sandboxes; and Innova-Dex Sports Inc. of Montreal, a bicycle helmet manufacturer. SLM also sold fitness equipment through its SLM Fitness division. Products included the Superstep aerobic portable platform, Heavy Hands exercise weights, and Gravity Edge exercise unit, which were marketed through television infomercials featuring sports celebrities, including Olympian Bruce Jenner.
Innovation also drove SLM, and the company planned to introduce a number of new products, including the Voice Command Vehicle, a voice-activated toy truck, and a line of inline skates featuring “Pump” air-bladder technology licensed from Reebok International Ltd. Another pioneering product SLM readied for the retail market brought the company much publicity—in early 1993 SLM announced it would introduce the Super Charger, a recharger designed to renew the life of disposable alkaline batteries. While battery manufacturers, particularly market leader Duraceli International, maintained that alkaline batteries were not designed to be recharged and that attempting to do so was potentially dangerous, SLM stated that its recharger had been tested rigorously and was safe. Though SLM hoped the recharger would significantly boost sales, the company contended that its future was not contingent upon the recharger’s success. “We’re not a battery-charger company. We’re a toy company,” Earl Takefman said in the Asian Wall Street Journal. “We’re not going to sink or swim on this product.”
Success certainly seemed to have hit SLM. Revenues for fiscal 1992 reached a record US$231.4 million, a 41 percent increase over 1991, and profits rose from US$6.2 million in 1991 to US$16.3 million. Toy sales alone grew 26 percent, to US$118.1 million, and SLM’s market share in the toy industry was on the rise. In 1992 SLM’s trucks powered past the Tonka brand to capture 27 percent of the market. SLM ranked second in the wheeled preschool toy market and was selected by retail giant Toys “R” Us as “vendor of the year” for three years running. SLM’s sporting goods segment also performed strongly, with sales up 61 percent in 1992 compared to 1991 sales.
SLM appeared unstoppable as revenues and profits continued to climb. Since its IPO in late 1991, SLM had posted eight successive quarters of record revenues and earnings. The company continued to grow through acquisitions, and in 1994 SLM bought #1 Apparel Inc., a manufacturer of licensed sports apparel, particularly hats and outerwear. SLM had plans to expand its hockey and toy operations and penetrate the European market. Howard Zunenshine, who headed SLM’s sporting goods division, explained SLM’s strategy in Sporting Goods Business and said, “Our theory is it’s easier to buy than build…. If you have cash in your pocket and you can buy shelf space, you’re in. That’s the way to go.”
The Hockey Company’s strategy is based on superior product technology and brand leadership. The hockey equipment market is driven by new product innovation and the Company manages a portfolio of the world’s leading brands—CCM, Koho, and J of a—that market these new technologies. Each brand is focused on a different consumer segment and multiple channels of distribution. The strategy is intended to allow the Company to fully penetrate all viable hockey markets with products it develops, manufactures and markets. The Company believes it can achieve annual revenue growth at a higher rate than the expected growth of the world-wide hockey market.
Things Fall Apart: Mid-1990s
SLM’s success seemed to fade as quickly as it had appeared, and by late 1994 the company appeared to be in financial straits. The Zunenshine family’s Belcourt Inc. went bankrupt in 1994, and in August Earl Takefman left the company, leaving with a severance package worth $1.5 million. SLM, of which the Zunenshines owned 42 percent in late 1994, reported a loss of US$52 million for the third quarter ended October 1, 1994. The company’s stock, which had reached a high of $30 in late 1993, plunged to less than $3 a share by late 1994. At the beginning of October SLM reported a deficit in working capital of US$5.8 million, compared to a surplus of $84 million just a year earlier. The company also disclosed that it had breached its loan agreements with its lenders.
Howard Zunenshine, who became sole CEO after Takefman’s departure, attributed many of the company’s problems to the toy division, which he said had “run amok.” The expense of producing infomercials for toys and fitness equipment proved costly and caused SLM’s selling and general and administrative expenses to nearly double in the first nine months of 1994. The Buddy L Super Charger did not perform to the company’s expectations, and after continued controversy and a negative review by Consumer Reports magazine, the product was pulled from the market. Despite SLM’s difficulties, Howard Zunenshine remained optimistic about the company’s future. The sporting goods division managed to perform well during the first nine months of 1994, with sales increasing 44 percent, and new management was placed in the toy division. Zunenshine told the Gazette (Montreal), “We’re not in dire straits by any stretch of the imagination. … We’ve had better years, … but we’re optimistic.”
Optimistic or not, the Buddy L toy division filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early 1995, and SLM’s lenders attempted to force four SLM units—Toy Factory Inc., Consumer InfoMarketing Inc., Maska U.S. Inc., and #1 Apparel Inc.—into bankruptcy. SLM’s shares were then delisted from the NASDAQ exchange in May because they failed to meet NASDAQ’s minimum net worth requirement. For fiscal 1994 SLM reported a net loss of US$112 million on sales of $181 million, and the following year the company’s net loss was $77.5 million on sales of $161 million.
In July 1995 SLM exited the toy industry when it sold its Buddy L toy division to Empire of Carolina, Inc., for US$3.75 million and 757,000 shares of stock. The company also sold its fitness equipment business to a group consisting of former SLM Fitness management. SLM planned to refocus its efforts on its flagship hockey equipment division. In October SLM International and its subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11, noting debt of US$184.6 million. Though operations continued, SLM’s status as a leader in the hockey realm was in question. CCM’s exclusive contract with the NHL to produce apparel ended in 1995 when the NHL formed licensing agreements with other companies, beginning with Starter Corp., which in about half a year gained more than half of the market share in NHL jerseys.
Rebuilding and Return to Hockey: Late 1990s
In April 1997 SLM emerged from bankruptcy with new management in place and a reorganization plan. New York-based investment bank Wellspring Associates LLC, which specialized in buying financially troubled companies, became the primary shareholder of SLM, and the Zunenshine family was no longer part of the company. The company’s new common stock began trading under the symbol “THCX” on the OTC Bulletin Board. The company’s new CEO, drawn out of retirement by SLM’s lenders, was Gerald Wasserman, who had been the president and CEO of SLM competitor Canstar Sports Inc. and a key player in Canstar’s turnaround in the early 1990s. Canstar, acquired by NIKE, Inc. in 1995 and renamed Bauer Inc., was headed by a former colleague of Wasserman’s.
Wasserman planned to take advantage of the booming hockey industry, estimated to be worth more than US$600 million in the United States alone, and leverage the strength of the CCM brand. Wasserman closed SLM’s New York offices and moved the headquarters to Montreal. Operations were consolidated, several facilities were closed, and subsidiary Mitchel & King Skates Limited was sold. His executive team included several people Wasserman managed to lure away from Bauer. Wasserman intended to invest more in research and development, believing that innovation and technology were key components of success in the hockey industry. Though the new team felt confident in SLM’s future and possibilities, it faced many challenges, particularly from Bauer. Of the hockey skates and hockey gear sold in North America in the mid-1990s, SLM and Bauer accounted for 95 percent. And though 40 percent of NHL players used CCM’s Tacks brand of skates, the Bauer brand was stronger among the general public, commanding twice the market share.
In 1998 SLM became the largest hockey company in the world when it acquired Montreal-based Sports Holding Corp., a manufacturer of hockey equipment. Sports Holding’s brands included Finnish Koho, Titan, Swedish Jofa, Canadien, and Heaton. The acquisition significantly boosted SLM’s presence in Europe, as Sports Holding was the leading hockey equipment company in Central Europe and Scandinavia. In addition, the company was a market leader in hockey sticks and protective gear, sold under the Jofa and Koho brands. The combined company was estimated to have sales of about US$200 million a year.
- Montreal businessman David Zunenshine enters the hockey industry through the acquisition of CG Knitting, a hockey jersey manufacturer.
- Company acquires the hockey assets of CCM Inc.
- Company enters the toy industry through the acquisition of Coleco Industries.
- Company incorporates and takes the name SLM International Inc.
- SLM files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
- Company emerges from bankruptcy protection and reorganizes.
- SLM acquires Sports Holdings Corp. and becomes the world’s top producer of hockey merchandise.
- SLM is renamed The Hockey Company.
In early 1999 SLM changed its name to The Hockey Company. Wasserman commented on the new name in a prepared statement and said, “Our new name reflects the leadership position that our company enjoys in the hockey industry. The Hockey Company possesses the most widely recognized hockey brands in both Europe and North America, as well as product lines and geographic strengths that are highly compiementary.” The Hockey Company secured a “Center Ice” licensing agreement with the NHL which permitted the company to make and market apparel with NHL logos. The company also made protective equipment under license from the NHL. The Hockey Company’s share of the NHL licensed apparel trade increased in 1999 as well, as Starter Corp. and NIKE both withdrew from the replica jersey industry.
Sales in fiscal 1999 grew 4.1 percent compared to 1998 figures to reach US$190.6 million. Revenues were supported by an increase in apparel sales, in the selling price of goaltender equipment, and in hockey stick sales. The Hockey Company reported a net loss of US$1.8 million, slightly down from a net loss of US$2.0 million in 1998. The ultimate fate of The Hockey Company was unknown, and the company had certainly experienced its share of ups and downs. With the popularity of hockey still growing, an experienced and knowledgeable team managing the company, and a host of new and innovative products readied for launch, the odds seemed to be in The Hockey Company’s favor.
Maska U.S., Inc.; Sport Maska Inc.; SLM Trademark Acquisition Corp.; SLM Trademark Acquisition Canada Corporation; Sport Maska Europe S.A.R.L.; Maska H.K. Limited; Sports Holding Corp.; KHF Finland Oy; KHF Sports Oy; WAP Holding Inc.; JOFA Holding AB; JOFA AB; JOFA Norge A/S; J.W. Verwaltungsgesellscahft mbH; Solte Kunstoffverarbeltungs-gesellschaft mbH; 2867923 Canada Inc.
NIKE, Inc.; Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, Inc.; Riddell Sports Inc.
Bernstein, Andy, “Starter, Others Cutting into NHL Pie As CCM Sorts Out Troubles,” Sporting Goods Business, January 1, 1996, p. 28.
Hadekel, Peter, “After Belcourt Bankruptcy, Zunenshines Take Beating in Toy Department,” Gazette (Montreal), November 29, 1994, p. D1.
Ingram, Mathew, “U.S. Insurers Seek SLM Bankruptcy,” Globe and Mail, March 7, 1995, p. B15.
Leitch, Carolyn, “SLM Hopes to Rebuild CCM Line,” The Globe and Mail, January 9, 1997, p. B8.
Levingston, Steven E., “SLM Sparks Controversy As It Launches Product,” Asian Wall Street Journal, February 8, 1993, p. 10.
McEvoy, Christopher, “SLM International,” Sporting Goods Business, February 1, 1994, p. 76.
Millan, Luis, “Ice Follies,” Canadian Business, June 1, 1997, p. 126.
Morris, Kathleen, “SLM International: A Buy in Toyland,” FW, July 21, 1992, p. 16.
Reguly, Eric, “Toymaker SLM Playing with Big Boys,” Financial Post, June 26, 1993, p. 14.
Shalom, Francois, “CCM Is Back in the Game,” Gazette (Montreal), February 17, 1997, p. C12.
——, “SLM Laces Up Merger,” Gazette (Montreal), October 9, 1998, p. E1.
——, “SLM Subsidiary Upbeat Despite Parent Firm’s Problems,” Gazette (Montreal), October 25, 1995, p. D8.
Strauss, Gary, “SLM Skating Toward Big Growth,” USA Today, February 25, 1992, p. B3.
Toomey, Craig, “Fun and Games,” Gazette (Montreal), March 30, 1992, p. B8.
Weinberg, Neil, “One Thing Led to Another,” Forbes, October 25, 1993, p. 206.
"The Hockey Company." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/hockey-company-0
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The Hockey Company
The Hockey Company
Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Reebok International Ltd.
Incorporated: 1991 as SLM International, Inc.
Sales: $239.9 million (2003)
NAIC: 339920 Sporting and Athletic Goods Manufacturing
As its name suggests, Montreal-based The Hockey Company is devoted to the sport of ice hockey. The company manufactures and markets equipment and apparel under some of the best known brands involved in the sport: CCM, JOFA, and KOHO. Primarily known for skates, CCM is a major North American brand that also makes equipment and jerseys. JOFA, founded in Sweden, is famous for its helmets and other high-quality equipment. Finnish brand KOHO started out in the 1950s as a stick manufacturer but has since added skates, protective equipment, and apparel to its product lines. In addition, The Hockey Company owns smaller sub-brands, including Canadien, Titan, and Heaton. While the Hockey Company is very much involved with professional hockey, providing equipment and official National Hockey League uniforms, its business is more reliant on equipment sales to young people as well as NHL-licensed apparel. To a much smaller degree, the company also sells in-line skates and ski and equestrian helmets. The Hockey Company is a subsidiary of Reebok International Ltd., the result of a 2004 acquisition.
The man behind the creation of The Hockey Company was a Montreal businessman named David Zunenshine, who first made his mark in the 1950s with the launch of a commercial real estate company, Belcourt Inc. In the 1970s, he took advantage of a tax-loss credit to diversify by acquiring a small Montreal knitting factory that produced athletic uniforms. With this toehold in the sporting goods industry, Zunenshine took a major step in 1983 when he purchased the hockey equipment business of CCM Inc. By acquiring CCM, an icon brand in North America, Zunenshine instantly made himself a player in the hockey equipment industry.
The history of CCM dates back to 1899 and the launch of Canada Cycle & Motor Company Limited in Weston, Ontario, Canada. CCM grew out of the bicycle industry, the result of five Canadian manufacturers—Massy-Harris, H.A. Lozier, Welland Vale, Goold, and Gendron—banding together to fend off U.S. competition in the form of the American Bicycle Company, which was looking to invade the Canadian market. As had been the case in the United States, the market for bicycles quickly became saturated, so that within a few years CCM looked for other sources of income. An attempt to become involved in the automobile business failed, prompting the company to turn its attention to ice hockey, a sport that had been gaining in popularity in Canada since the introduction of the Stanley Cup, a silver bowl awarded to the winning amateur hockey team in an annual tournament. Interest in the Stanley Cup led to the creation of professional leagues and eventually the creation of the National Hockey League in 1917. The first hockey product CCM introduced in the early years of the new century was the Automobile Skate. The new product line proved so successful that by the 1930s more than 90 percent of all NHL players used CCM skates, a fact that carried great weight in the sales to amateur players. Over the years, CCM reinforced its dominant position by enlisting major NHL stars as official spokesmen. CCM also remained Canada's leading bicycle manufacturer but began to falter in the early 1980s. Despite a government bailout, the company was forced into bankruptcy in 1983, resulting in Zunenshine picking up the hockey division and the bicycle assets sold elsewhere.
Company Adds Toy Assets in Late 1980s
Zunenshine's next move in diversification, two years later, was to acquire another struggling business, St. Lawrence Manufacturing Company Inc., a skate blade maker. Taking advantage of the company's plastic injection molding equity, he had the plant turn out plastic sleds as well. To add some summer sales to the mix, in 1988 he acquired the children's pool division of bankrupt Coleco Industries, a company that had enjoyed tremendous success with Cabbage Patch dolls in the mid-1980s but had failed to deliver a follow-up hit, posted massive losses, and was forced to shed assets as it spiraled into bankruptcy. Zuzenshine made further inroads into toys in 1990 through another distress sale, picking up the remains of U.S. toy truck maker Buddy L Corporation.
To take charge of his assorted toy and sporting goods interests, Zunenshine brought in Earl Takefman, a veteran of the toy industry. After earning his MBA, Takefman started his career in the school supply business, where he had success in licensing television and sports names to everyday items, such as NHL rulers and Kermit the Frog erasers. He moved into the toy industry, becoming president of Charan Industries, which succeeded nicely as the Canadian distributor of the fad doll Teddy Ruxpin. Unfortunately, when the U.S. supplier began to falter, it dumped merchandise into the marketplace, leaving Charan with overpriced inventory. The offer of employment from Zunenshine came just in time for Takefman, who now took over Zunenshine's collection of castoff assets. In addition, Zunenshine controlled a money-losing chain of Canadian fitness centers, which he began to shut down. Because he still owned the rights to market some exercise products, such as Heavy Hands weights, he placed that on Takefman's plate as well.
To turn around this assortment of money-losing companies, Zunenshine needed to raise funds and looked to the equity markets. When Canadian underwriters showed no interest, he turned to the United States, and in September 1991 he formed a Delaware corporation called SLM International, Inc., drawing on the initials of St. Lawrence Manufacturing for the company name. Now based in New York City, SLM made a public offering of stock at $10.50 a share in November 1991. Zunenshine's son, David Zunenshine, served as co-chief executive officer of the company, heading the sporting goods division in Montreal, while his counterpart, Takefman, handled the toy business from New York City offices.
After the infusion of cash, SLM enjoyed a successful run for the next few years. Takefman replicated his success in school supplies by licensing names for its pools and sleds, such as Big Bird for pools and Harley-Davidson for sleds. He supplemented this business in 1992 by acquiring Montreal-based Norca Industries Inc., maker of children's swimming pools and sleds, as well as sandboxes, some of which bore the Batman and Playskool licenses. To fill out the exercise equipment he inherited, Takefman acquired the licenses for other products, and began moving the merchandise with infomercials. Takefman was also adept at cutting ad budgets to lower prices and spur sales. Another way he grew sales was by adding extras along with a lower price, such as integrating voice recognition into Buddy L trucks to give them an edge over more heavily promoted Tonka trucks.
The licensing idea was also taken up by the sporting goods division, which applied Reebok's "The Pump" cushion technology and logo to hockey skates. Sporting goods took another page from the toy side of the company by acquiring Innova-Dex Sports, maker of bicycle helmets, to provide seasonal balance to SLM's hockey helmet business. Also in 1992, SLM found a way to combine its toy and sporting goods aspirations by acquiring Kevin Sports Toys International, an Alberta, Canada-based company that produced the official Wayne Gretzky National Hockey League rod-driven table hockey game. As a result of these endeavors, SLM's balance sheet now showed a marked improvement. After the toy and sporting good assets combined for an operating loss of $2.2 million in 1990, the newly constituted SLM experienced records sales and earnings for several consecutive quarters, resulting in a soaring stock price.
SLM continued to expand in 1993. In May, it acquired The Toy Factory, Inc., a New Jersey maker of children's games. Later in the year it acquired #1 Apparel, a K-Products Inc. subsidiary that produced baseball caps and jackets. However, SLM's high-flying days soon came to an end, as rising advertising costs, especially the infomercials, and large debt soon overshadowed sales increases. Starting in the fourth quarter of 1993, the company began losing money. The situation was only exacerbated by the problems Zunenshine now endured with his Canadian real estate business, Belcourt, which was forced to file for bankruptcy in September 1994. SLM's stock, priced over $30 in November 1993, plummeted to less than $7 a year later. By this point, Takefman was already gone, having resigned in August 1994 because of philosophic differences over the company's future direction. Howard Zunenshine attempted to right the ship by emphasizing products that did not require much in the way of promotion, such as perennial models of trucks and swimming pools, but the change in strategy provided little relief.
Through its subsidiaries, The Hockey Company, headquartered in Montreal, Canada, is the world's largest marketer and manufacturer of hockey equipment and apparel.
From Bankruptcy to New Ownership: Mid-1990s and Beyond
In 1995, SLM began to discard assets. Buddy L. was sold to Empire of Carolina Inc. in January, followed a few months later by the sale of SLM Fitness assets to Madison Group Assets. Nevertheless, these moves could not halt the company's plunging stock price. The shares were delisted by the NASDAQ, and in October 1995 SLM filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. The company's most valuable remaining asset was CCM, a traditionally profitable business that had been long neglected by the Zunenshines and Takefman. An example of mismanagement was the jersey division producing thousands of Quebec Nordiques jerseys well after the team had taken steps to relocate the franchise to Colorado. Many investors recognized CCM's underlying strength and began jockeying to gain control as SLM developed a plan of reorganization in 1996. The man that a reported 19 investment groups contacted to help take over was Gerald Wasserman, a former NHL back-up goalie now retired in California. A chartered accountant, Wasserman was a seasoned executive as well as an experienced hockey man. During his career he helped turn around Melchers Distilleries Ltd. and Bellevue Home Entertainment Inc. In the late 1980s, he took over struggling Canstar Sports Inc., a company that made such non-hockey products as ski boots and appliances. Under Wasserman, Canstar focused on hockey, straying only as far afield as in-line skates. Having resurrected Canstar, Wasserman left in 1993 to become president of Weider Health and Fitness. Canstar was acquired in 1995 for CAD546 million by Nike, Inc., the U.S. athletic footwear company that had its sights set on hockey. Canstar subsequently changed its name to Bauer Inc.
In September 1996, Wasserman signed a five-year agreement to succeed Howard Zunenshine as SLM's CEO at the behest of a creditor's committee comprised of representatives from six insurance companies and several banks. With Wasserman in the fold, the New York investment firm Wellspring Holdings agreed to pay approximately $30 million to acquire a controlling stake, slightly over 50 percent, in SLM. The insurance companies took the rest, while Wasserman held stock options contingent upon the company's performance. Thus, early in 1997 SLM was able to emerge from bankruptcy protection and lost no time in introducing new products into the marketplace. This action was in keeping with Wasserman's strategy of spending money on research and development to position SLM as a leader in innovation.
SLM greatly expanded its hockey assets in the fall of 1998 when it acquired privately held Sports Holdings Corporation. During the mid-1990s, SHC had been involved in a number of sporting goods areas in addition to hockey, such as footwear, cross-country skis, and snowboards. By 1998, however, the company shed these assets to become a hockey-focused company, looking to exploit its stable of hockey brands, including Titan, Jofa, Canadien, Heathon, and Koho. Jofa and Koho were both venerable European brands doing business for half a century. In October 1998, SLM bought all the outstanding shares of SHC, thereby bringing all of the world's major hockey equipment brands under one roof. In keeping with the addition of these brands, which made it the largest manufacturer of ice and roller hockey equipment and apparel in the world, SLM in March 1999 changed its name to The Hockey Company, its headquarters now located in Montreal.
From a marketing perspective, The Hockey Company viewed itself as three separate companies operating as one. Thus, when in 2000 it won the licensing rights to manufacture and market jerseys for all 30 NHL teams as well as the uniforms for officials, the company parceled the business to the different brands. CCM and Koho would each supply 15 teams with official game jerseys, as well as manufacture replica and official jerseys. Jofa, on the other hand, was tapped to provide the practice jerseys for all 30 teams as well as linesman jerseys. The other brands—Heaton, Canadien, and Titan—became subbrands under the main three, with CCM associated with Heaton, Titan with Jofa, and Koho with Canadien. The Hockey Company supplemented its NHL apparel business in 2003 with the acquisition of Roger Edwards Sports, a company that produced vintage hockey apparel as well as other sports apparel items.
In June 2003, The Hockey Company completed an initial public offering, netting CAD72 million, and its shares began trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The company's days as a publicly traded company would be limited, however, as less than a year later, in April 2004, Reebok agreed to pay $204 million in cash and assume $125 million in debt to acquire The Hockey Company. It was an important deal for Reebok, ranked second behind Nike in almost every sports category. With the addition of The Hockey Company, however, Reebok dominated Nike and its Bauer subsidiary in the hockey market, with a 30 percent market share compared to Nike's 15. Moreover, NHL jerseys were doing well with young men, a demographic that Reebok hoped to target, as well as young girls, who were turning to hockey as a participatory sport in growing numbers. Across the board, participation in youth hockey leagues, high school teams, and college teams had been on the rise for the past decade. Moreover, sales of NHL-licensed apparel was growing, and that business dovetailed nicely with Reebok's successful apparel business, which already included providing uniforms for the National Football League and National Basketball Association.
Labor problems that resulted in the cancellation of the 2004–05 NHL season may have had an adverse impact on The Hockey Company in the short run, but its main business was in fact youth sales, and here the demographics—the continued rise of the echo generation of Baby Boomers—favored the company's long-term prospects.
Sport Maska Inc.; Sport Holdings Corporation; JOFA AB; KHF Finland Oy.
Bauer Nike Hockey Inc.; Easton Sports, Inc.; K2 Inc.
- David Zunenshine acquires CCM Inc.
- Zunenshine forms SLM International, Inc.
- SLM files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
- SLM emerges from bankruptcy protection.
- Sports Holdings Corporation is acquired.
- SLM changes its name to The Hockey Company.
- Reebok acquires the company.
Gatlin, Greg, "Reebok Skates into Hockey Big Time," Boston Herald, April 9, 2004, p. 33.
Klems, Brian, "The Hockey Company Sharpens Its Marketing Platforms," Sporting Goods Business, September 15, 2000, p. 13.
Millan, Luis, "Ice Follies," Canadian Business, June 1997, p. 126.
Reguly, Eric, "Toymaker SLM Playing with Big Boys," Financial Post, June 26, 1993, p. 14.
Sanford, Jeff, "The Ice Age: Will the Echo Generation Swap Their Toys for Hockey Sticks?" Canadian Business, May 12, 2003.
"SLM International"—A Buy in Toyland," Financial World, July 21, 1992, p. 16.
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"The Hockey Company." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/hockey-company
"The Hockey Company." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/hockey-company